A MISSION OF RELATIONSHIPS

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Our first encounter with the Messick family was when they stayed in our home during furlough over two years ago. After traveling over 1,600 miles from Colorado to Pennsylvania with 5 children ages 3 to 13 in tow, we were certain that they would be exhausted and ready to crash. We had never met in person and were surprised to learn that Matt and Kristy’s first desire after arriving late that evening was to sit down with my wife and I to get to know us. As we soon came to learn, this priority on building relationships characterizes the ministry of the Messick family wherever they go.

Fast forward a couple years to the summer of 2019 and our roles are reversed – the Messick family, now with 6 children, would host my family as we prepared to visit, encourage, and serve them in Ecuador. After two days of travel my wife and I and our 15 year-old son were in a prop plane on approach to Catamayo, the nearest commercial airport in the middle of the Andes mountains. It’s a bit of an uneasy ride as the plane descends between two mountains and must bank sharply to the right to line up with the runway just before landing.

Our reunion was joyous, and after an hour-long ride though the mountains we arrived at their home in Loja. The Messick’s home is located a couple miles from the city center. Rather than living in a compound with other missionaries, they had chosen to live in a community with no other evangelical witness so that they could more easily get to know their neighbors and build relationships with them. 

In Loja, Ecuador, traditional Catholicism is simply a way of life, not a relationship with Jesus Christ. Loja Province is considered an unreached people group with less than 1% evangelical Christians. Most residents are wary of gringo missionaries, and it is difficult to earn their trust. However, the Messicks have found a unique ministry approach that builds bridges with people and opens opportunities to share the gospel. To the people of Loja, Matt and Kristy are friends, counselors, and confidantes.

Their marriage ministry addresses a fundamental social need. Cultural norms and family dynamics frequently lead to damaged marriages in Loja and infidelity is commonplace. When they began their ministry, initial participants were from the evangelical church. But as they have built relationships and word-of-mouth has drawn others from outside the church, opportunities to touch lives throughout their community have expanded.

During our visit, we participated in their weekly marriage course, in 
which partici-pants are systematically introduced to biblical and gospel-saturated marriage principals. At other times, we simply assisted with meal preparation, cleanup, or childcare while Matt and Kristy met with those who reached out to them in their need – such as counseling with a couple who’s marriage was in jeopardy, or a late-night visit to a family with a sick infant.

We helped prepare and participated in several ministry activities organized by the Messicks, including a ladies book club and craft at the evangelical church, and a game night in the local community center to build relationships with their neighbors. Even our downtime served ministry purposes, as we lunched at an inexpensive restaurant managed by an unsaved couple that we would meet there. On Sunday, we visited the largest evangelical church in the morning, and worshiped with believers in a small mission church in the evening. A family the size of the Messick’s is unusual in the region. Their spousal and parent-child family dynamics are a real witness to a watching world. Parenting is not the focus of their ministry, but people have come to them for parenting advice and an occasional intervention with a rebellious child. Where the Lord has provided opportunity through felt needs, they have given witness to a Savior who redeems our brokenness and brings new life. Watching Matt and Kristy interacting with people throughout the week, it was clear 
that they were accepted and enjoyed a close relationship with those whose lives they touched.

Our first encounter with the Messick family was when they stayed in our home during furlough over two years ago. After traveling over 1,600 miles from Colorado to Pennsylvania with 5 children ages 3 to 13 in tow, we were certain that they would be exhausted and ready to crash. We had never met in person and were surprised to learn that Matt and Kristy’s first desire after arriving late that evening was to sit down with my wife and I to get to know us. As we soon came to learn, this priority on building relationships characterizes the ministry of the Messick family wherever they go.

Fast forward a couple years to the summer of 2019 and our roles are reversed – the Messick family, now with 6 children, would host my family as we prepared to visit, encourage, and serve them in Ecuador. After two days of travel my wife and I and our 15 year-old son were in a prop plane on approach to Catamayo, the nearest commercial airport in the middle of the Andes mountains. It’s a bit of an uneasy ride as the plane descends between two mountains and must bank sharply to the right to line up with the runway just before landing.

Our reunion was joyous, and after an hour-long ride though the mountains we arrived at their home in Loja. The Messick’s home is located a couple miles from the city center. Rather than living in a compound with other missionaries, they had chosen to live in a community with no other evangelical witness so that they could more easily get to know their neighbors and build relationships with them. 

In Loja, Ecuador, traditional Catholicism is simply a way of life, not a relationship with Jesus Christ. Loja Province is considered an unreached people group with less than 1% evangelical Christians. Most residents are wary of gringo missionaries, and it is difficult to earn their trust. However, the Messicks have found a unique ministry approach that builds bridges with people and opens opportunities to share the gospel. To the people of Loja, Matt and Kristy are friends, counselors, and confidantes.

Their marriage ministry addresses a fundamental social need. Cultural norms and family dynamics frequently lead to damaged marriages in Loja and infidelity is commonplace. When they began their ministry, initial participants were from the evangelical church. But as they have built relationships and word-of-mouth has drawn others from outside the church, opportunities to touch lives throughout their community have expanded.

During our visit, we participated in their weekly marriage course, in 
which partici-pants are systematically introduced to biblical and gospel-saturated marriage principals. At other times, we simply assisted with meal preparation, cleanup, or childcare while Matt and Kristy met with those who reached out to them in their need – such as counseling with a couple who’s marriage was in jeopardy, or a late-night visit to a family with a sick infant.

We helped prepare and participated in several ministry activities organized by the Messicks, including a ladies book club and craft at the evangelical church, and a game night in the local community center to build relationships with their neighbors. Even our downtime served ministry purposes, as we lunched at an inexpensive restaurant managed by an unsaved couple that we would meet there. On Sunday, we visited the largest evangelical church in the morning, and worshiped with believers in a small mission church in the evening. A family the size of the Messick’s is unusual in the region. Their spousal and parent-child family dynamics are a real witness to a watching world. Parenting is not the focus of their ministry, but people have come to them for parenting advice and an occasional intervention with a rebellious child. Where the Lord has provided opportunity through felt needs, they have given witness to a Savior who redeems our brokenness and brings new life. Watching Matt and Kristy interacting with people throughout the week, it was clear 
that they were accepted and enjoyed a close relationship with those whose lives they touched.

Our first encounter with the Messick family was when they stayed in our home during furlough over two years ago. After traveling over 1,600 miles from Colorado to Pennsylvania with 5 children ages 3 to 13 in tow, we were certain that they would be exhausted and ready to crash. We had never met in person and were surprised to learn that Matt and Kristy’s first desire after arriving late that evening was to sit down with my wife and I to get to know us. As we soon came to learn, this priority on building relationships characterizes the ministry of the Messick family wherever they go.

Fast forward a couple years to the summer of 2019 and our roles are reversed – the Messick family, now with 6 children, would host my family as we prepared to visit, encourage, and serve them in Ecuador. After two days of travel my wife and I and our 15 year-old son were in a prop plane on approach to Catamayo, the nearest commercial airport in the middle of the Andes mountains. It’s a bit of an uneasy ride as the plane descends between two mountains and must bank sharply to the right to line up with the runway just before landing.

Our reunion was joyous, and after an hour-long ride though the mountains we arrived at their home in Loja. The Messick’s home is located a couple miles from the city center. Rather than living in a compound with other missionaries, they had chosen to live in a community with no other evangelical witness so that they could more easily get to know their neighbors and build relationships with them. 

In Loja, Ecuador, traditional Catholicism is simply a way of life, not a relationship with Jesus Christ. Loja Province is considered an unreached people group with less than 1% evangelical Christians. Most residents are wary of gringo missionaries, and it is difficult to earn their trust. However, the Messicks have found a unique ministry approach that builds bridges with people and opens opportunities to share the gospel. To the people of Loja, Matt and Kristy are friends, counselors, and confidantes.

Their marriage ministry addresses a fundamental social need. Cultural norms and family dynamics frequently lead to damaged marriages in Loja and infidelity is commonplace. When they began their ministry, initial participants were from the evangelical church. But as they have built relationships and word-of-mouth has drawn others from outside the church, opportunities to touch lives throughout their community have expanded.

During our visit, we participated in their weekly marriage course, in 
which partici-pants are systematically introduced to biblical and gospel-saturated marriage principals. At other times, we simply assisted with meal preparation, cleanup, or childcare while Matt and Kristy met with those who reached out to them in their need – such as counseling with a couple who’s marriage was in jeopardy, or a late-night visit to a family with a sick infant.

We helped prepare and participated in several ministry activities organized by the Messicks, including a ladies book club and craft at the evangelical church, and a game night in the local community center to build relationships with their neighbors. Even our downtime served ministry purposes, as we lunched at an inexpensive restaurant managed by an unsaved couple that we would meet there. On Sunday, we visited the largest evangelical church in the morning, and worshiped with believers in a small mission church in the evening. A family the size of the Messick’s is unusual in the region. Their spousal and parent-child family dynamics are a real witness to a watching world. Parenting is not the focus of their ministry, but people have come to them for parenting advice and an occasional intervention with a rebellious child. Where the Lord has provided opportunity through felt needs, they have given witness to a Savior who redeems our brokenness and brings new life. Watching Matt and Kristy interacting with people throughout the week, it was clear 
that they were accepted and enjoyed a close relationship with those whose lives they touched.

David Marks is an elder at Grace BFC, Quakertown, PA. David’s wife is Charlotte and their son, Alex.

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